May 16, 2015
In Greek mythology, Cynara was a beautiful nymph who, having declined to live on Olympus with Zeus, was thrown to earth by the angry god and transformed into the tasty artichoke plant that we all love. His loss!
The Peloponnese and Crete are the main regions where artichokes are commercially cultivated because they hate frost and need a mild climate in order to survive. In our garden we grow some wild thorny artichoke plants with a superb taste, but the common varieties found in most markets are bigger, lack thorns, and have a milder flavor that is still very tasty. In our area, fresh artichokes are served raw with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil as a meze for ouzo or wine.
Really fresh artichokes, have a crunchy, slightly nutty flavor that resembles the taste of raw chestnuts. I wanted to try them as a salad main course, so I used spring herbs for extra flavor, bulgur wheat to give bulk, and feta for some more protein and taste. The result was an aromatic flavorful dish which can be served either as a side salad or alone.
Apr 23, 2015
I often wonder what could be characterized as a typical Greek flavor in pastry; and I usually come to the conclusion that yogurt and honey make a pair that many could consider as a classically Greek. So if I make a panna cotta with Greek yogurt and honey, would people think that this Italian dessert has a Greek twist? I can’t judge but it definitely tasted good. Since I have started this ‘alchemy’ of turning famous desserts into Greek with the addition of yogurt and honey, I have discovered that French macarons lend themselves to the treatment!
The first time I ever saw macaron was five or six years ago when I started reading food blogs and came across the blog Tartelette. I remember how beautiful they looked in the pictures. Then I tried them in a pastry shop in Athens and was sure I should try making them myself. My research on the internet showed that macarons are more or less the ‘’Holy Grail’’ of every avid food blogger and I decided I needed one more cooking book, this time one specializing on the macaron. Pierre Herme’s ''Macarons'' proved the ideal master class on macarons since he is world famous for all those incredible and unique flavors. Pierre Herme uses the Italian meringue method which has proven to be almost foolproof in my case.
Now I had to create a Greek yogurt ganache since I couldn’t find any reference on the internet and it turned out that it was a very good idea. The sweetness of the white chocolate is balanced by the mild sour taste of yogurt, creating a very interesting ganache but, this time, with a Greek character.
Sep 11, 2014
My grandfather planted a fig tree in the garden of our cottage that, despite its age, has never stopped producing fruits year after year. Fig trees, like olive trees, live long. They are commonly found in the Greek country side next to old houses or ruins, still in perfect shape and full of fruits every August, as if time for them is an endless youth.
I’m sure you have had that ‘feeling’ when visiting an older relative’s house after many years, a sense that you remember it being bigger and suddenly you realize that houses usually keep their shape and that it is you who, like Alice in Wonderland, grew larger. I had that sense the other day with the fig tree in our garden. As a child I used to climb on its branches to pick more figs and back then I used to think it was huge.
Our figs are yellow, the variety used for sun dried figs. Every August my grandmother would lay them on thatch on the terrace under the hot summer sun to dry and after the sunset every evening we would help her to carry them into the house to protect them against humidity. That ritual would be repeated for as many days as needed until the figs would dry out and be ready for storage. My grandmother stored them in cookie boxes layered with laurel leaves as a preserving agent.
Figs are usually consumed fresh, but in Greece we make a wonderful emerald sweet preserve in June with unripe figs, and of course as I said before, some varieties can be dried and used all year in other confections.